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The Credit Card Companies’ Dirty Little Secret

By Philip Tirone

People already know that bankruptcies, foreclosures, repossessions, and collections will hurt their credit scores. And it’s no big secret that late payments are one of the causes of bad credit. But I bet you don’t know about some of the things that hurt credit! Today’s blog is about the the dirty little secret that will hurt your credit score. Here is is …

Credit card companies often omit or inaccurately report credit card limits, and this causes your score to drop. About half of all consumers are missing at least one credit limit on their credit reports. And in other instances, credit card companies intentionally report a lower limit than you have. Why does this hurt your credit score? Well, the credit-scoring system places a lot of  weight on something called a utilization rate. The utilization rate represents your credit card balance as a percentage of your limit. If your limit is $1000 and your balance is $300, you have a 30 percent utilization rate. If your balance increases to $500, your utilization rate would increase to 50 percent. In other words, you would be utilizing 50 percent of your available limit.

The credit-scoring formula responds more favorably to people who have a utilization rate that is no higher than 30 percent.

Now let’s imagine that you have a $300 balance on a credit card with a limit of $1000. Your utilization rate is 30 percent. Good news for your credit score, right? Not so fast. If the credit card company is only reporting a $500 limit, you will appear to be carrying a 60 percent utilization rate because the credit-scoring bureaus will think you are using $300 of a $500 limit. And this hurts your credit score.

There are a lot of theories as to why the credit card companies do this. One is that credit card companies buy lists of borrowers whose limits are, for example, more than $10,000. The companies then send credit card offers with enticing interest rates to the people on these lists. Their goal is to encourage borrowers to switch cards. Your credit card company does not want your name on that list. They want to make sure that you remain a loyal customer. In an effort to keep you as a client, some experts say credit card companies report a lower credit limit than you actually have, or they do not report your limit at all. This makes you less appealing to other credit card companies. This might be good news for their client list, but it is bad news for your credit score.

Are you a victim of this scam? If so, take the following steps:

1.     Pull your credit report from www.my720ficoscore.com.

2.     If the credit card companies are inaccurately reporting any credit limit of yours, immediately begin the process of correcting this mistake. Remember, if you cannot get this mistake fixed, you can and should fight back!

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